March 2011 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

My last day in Haiti last month was spent in Port au Prince making the rounds to our house projects.  It was encouraging to finally see the results of months of preparation to get this project started.  The earthquake left rubble that had to be cleared away in order to begin rebuilding.  We now have 13 houses either completed or very close.  Pastor Diogene and I walked through the neighborhood near the church since the “streets” are too narrow to drive through.  We met the home owners and received grateful greetings from the proud recipients of the new homes.

Now these homes don’t seem to be much by our standards but are a tremendous blessing to those who have been living in a tent or simply under a blue tarp for the past year. One new home was built on a lot that is only 16 foot square because that is the only land this widow has.  That means after the walls are build directly on the property line the only room is about 14’ x 9’ plus a 4-foot porch right on the street.  This beautiful Haitian lady was all smiles when we came up and she quickly gave us hugs and many thanks.  I pass the “thank you” on to you.  Without your generous support this would not be possible. Continue Reading →

September 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your prayers!  Bernie, David Morley, and I arrived safely and without any complications in Haiti on Monday morning.  And after a couple of brief stops in Port-au-Prince, drove two hours north to Gonave Bay for the Pastors’ Conference that Starfish Ministries sponsors each year.

As I shared last month, this year’s topic is “Developing Effective Leaders” within the church.  I’ve taught two sessions so far, and I’m encouraged by the response as I’ve interacted with many of the pastors, listening to accounts of their victories and challenges in this area and seeking to answer their questions based on the truth of Scripture.

Now, on Tuesday afternoon, the pastors are enjoying some personal time relaxing and reflecting, Dad and David have gone to Bethel to meet with two young Haitian men who are doing some work for Starfish, and I have stayed back to write this letter to you.

I was struck this morning by something Pastor Diogene shared. Continue Reading →

Update from Bernie in Haiti

Bernie called from Haiti this afternoon.  He sounded upbeat and energized to be back ministering to and with many old friends.

He had a window seat on the plane as he flew into Port-au-Prince Wednesday.  As the city came into view, the thing the struck him most was all the blue.  Blue?  As they descended, he realized that the blue was tarps, make-shift shelters all over the city providing the only protection for thousands of Haitians from sun and rain.  On the ground was more of the same, a giant tent-city of tarps and anything else desperate Haitians could scavenge to provide a bit of shelter.

Many Port-au-Prince residents had their homes destroyed in the earthquake.  And those whose homes were not destroyed are afraid to return to them as they still continue to experience aftershocks.  Just last week there was a magnitude 4.4 aftershock (on Thursday, May 6), that terrorized the city once again.  And so they live in the streets or in any open space they can find. Continue Reading →

May 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

In an email/website update on April 21, we shared a bit about how we’re moving into the next phase of earthquake relief, as we begin the process of helping families rebuild homes.  And we wanted to expand a little more on how we are approaching that.

Our philosophy in all ministry is to support and equip Haitians to be successful in helping themselves and ministering to others.  At times that means teaching and training them.  Other times it means providing financial support.  And sometimes it means doing those things they aren’t yet equipped to do in order that they might succeed where God has gifted them.  We don’t want to descend on the country and attempt to fix all of their problems for them.  Rather, we desire to work beside them – or to stand behind them – and help them do the things God has called them to do. Continue Reading →

Disaster Relief Update

Dear Friends,

We wanted to take a few moments and share with you where we are in our disaster relief efforts in Port-au-Prince and how we have been using the resources you’ve helped to supply.  As Pastor Diogene indicated in our update Monday, we have supplied food to approximately 10,000 people since the earthquake in January, and for many of those, this was their primary source of food.  Our family sponsorship ministry – where sponsors have committed to supporting a family for a six-month period while they re-establish their lives – has been going strong for the last two months, with more than 100 families sponsored.  And now we are preparing to help families reconstruct homes lost in the earthquake.

Our approach to this reconstruction will be to support Haitians as they rebuild.  Where some might be inclined to descend on Port-au-Prince and rebuild for them, we believe this kind of supportive partnership is a better course of action.  And our support will come in several ways: 

  1. Financial.  The way we’ve done this in the past (after the 2008 hurricanes) was to pay for materials for one phase of construction at a time, such as the foundation or the walls.  The homeowner provided the labor.  And when that phase was completed and inspected, we financed the next phase.
  2.  Labor assistance in specific, specialized areas.  We brought in a team that installed the metal roofing on several of the homes built in 2008-2009.
  3.  Guidance through the construction process.  Using our Haitian partners, we want to visit and encourage these homeowners regularly while ensuring proper construction.

Pastor Diogene has suggested that we reevaluate some of the outdated construction methods used on many Haitian homes.  We agree with him that, while we want to use familiar and available materials (concrete blocks, metal roofing, etc.), there are techniques that will streamline construction and produce a better, more solid home.  These range from small changes in the mortar that will increase its strength to better methods for tying together walls.  Our goal is to keep things “Haitian” while being good stewards of the resources we’ve been given and producing well-built homes that will last for many years.  So Glenn and Doug, along with our Haitian construction partners, are in the process of evaluating building methods right now.  Pray for wisdom for them as they consider these things.

As always, thank you for the part you play in supporting our Haitian brothers and sisters, especially during these difficult times for them.

Serving our Lord together,

Bernie, Sheryl & Philip Bovenkamp

April 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

We recently published accounts of the January earthquake in Haiti by two young men who have been friends and partners with Starfish Ministries for many years.  Daniel teaches in an English-speaking elementary school in Port-au-Prince.  Mickenson is in his second year of seminary, also in Port-au-Prince.

The striking thing about their reactions to this tragedy is their trust in the Lord and complete surrender to His will.  Daniel lost his fiancé in the earthquake and mere weeks later wrote, “God has given us the strength to accept His will.  He’s wiped all our tears, and we are doing His work with gladness.  Now, we are living proof that His mercies and His faithfulness never fail.  May His name be glorified in our lives!” Continue Reading →

March 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

The Port-au-Prince earthquake has faded from the headlines, and Haitian relief is not quite the cause of the day it was a few weeks ago.  Hollywood has finished its fundraisers and gone back to giving each other awards, and the pundits and bloggers have returned to debating healthcare.  But the work in Haiti is just beginning.  Much of our focus during those first six weeks after the earthquake struck was on emergency survival and meeting basic needs.  Now we are transitioning into longer-term solutions and meeting needs in more sustainable ways.  Here are a few of the areas we are concentrating on right now.

Helping Haitian families rebuild their homes.  God has already provided a great deal, through your generosity, toward earthquake relief.  Much of that money has been used to provide food and water and to meet other immediate needs following the earthquake.  But much will also be used for the rebuilding of homes. Continue Reading →

Friday 2/5

I was able to get through to Pastor Diogene this morning.  He sounded more rested and energetic — thank you for praying for him. 

As president of the UEBH (Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Haiti) Diogene had an office in a STEP Seminary building.  That building was destroyed in the earthquake.  All the UEBH offices and the STEP offices were in that building.  So Diogene has been in a lot of meetings to discuss what direction God would have them go in this area.  Please pray for wisdom for Diogene and his UEBH leadership team.

Pastor Diogene reported that none of the over 250 pastors in the UEBH had died in the earthquake.  However some of them have lost wives and several have lost children and many members of their churches.   Diogene has had much opportunity to minister to these pastors.  Our food distribution ministry is now reaching out to 15 of these pastors who have not yet received aid from the UN or World Food Program.  Each of these pastors has there own “camp” that they are reaching out to with food.  Thank you for praying for these pastors as they deal with their own grief and then also minister to so many hurting within their churches.

Yesterday Glenn visited several of our schools and churches.  He didn’t find any structual damage — however there are small cracks that will need some attention.  We are thankful that all of these buildings are still habitable and our school ministry can continue. 

Pastor Diogene and his ministry team are preparing for the evangelistic crusade that will begin next Monday.  They are cleaning up an area close to the PAP church, building a raised area to lead from and putting up some large tarps for some cover.  But most of all they are praying for God to open many hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for being part of this prayer team. 

Thanks so much for partnering with your prayers and support.